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Graham Sets Example With Sotomayor Vote

By Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Observer - August 3, 2009

Sen. Lindsey Graham's vote for Judge Sonia Sotomayor to become a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court didn't inspire a groundswell of GOP support for her. In a praiseworthy and principled move, the South Carolina senator cast the lone Republican ballot on the Senate Judiciary Committee for President Obama's nominee.

For all practical purposes, it hardly mattered. The panel voted 13-6 in favor of Sotomayor.

We hope more Republicans join Democrats to vote for this historic nomination. The full Senate is expected to take up the confirmation Tuesday. As we said before the Senate hearings got under way, Sotomayor is fully qualified to sit on the Supreme Court and deserves confirmation. Her personal story is inspiring, and she brings to the job broader legal experience than any sitting justice, including being a New York prosecutor, a corporate litigator, a trial judge and an appellate judge.

During the hearings, it became clear that she was far from the caricature of an activist judge her detractors tried to paint her as, and that ill-chosen words plucked from a speech led some to assume. Her record is one of a thoughtful, articulate, fair-minded jurist.

Unfortunately, the National Rifle Association has drawn a line in the sand over her confirmation. The group has taken exception to her rulings on gun and property rights and took the extraordinary step of warning senators that a “yes” vote would hurt their standing in the group's rankings.

Such coercion is unfortunate, and thankfully some GOP senators are defying the threats. A handful have joined Graham in pledging to vote for Sotomayor. They should be applauded.

We were hardly surprised to see Graham act with principle and not politics on this matter. He has done so before.

A few years ago, Graham joined six other Republicans and seven Democrats to form the Gang of 14, brokering a bipartisan deal to avert a Senate shootout over conservative judicial candidates. He also broke with Republican ranks to criticize the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and the Bush administration's strategy on Social Security changes.

Of his decision to vote for Sotomayor, Graham said she wasn't the nominee he would have chosen. But “you decided to vote for a man you would not have chosen,” he said of Democratic members of the committee who voted to confirm John Roberts, President George W. Bush's nominee for chief justice. The Judiciary Committee chairman, Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was among the Democrats who voted for Roberts.

Graham called Obama's decision to nominate the first-ever Latina to the highest court “a big deal,” adding that “America has changed for the better with her selection… I gladly give her my vote because I think she meets the qualifications test that was used in (confirming Justices Antonin) Scalia and (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg.”

Other GOP senators should follow his example.

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